Friday, July 16, 2004

I’m feeling a little better today, especially as my deadline at work was pushed back two weeks. Yay! I can go to Otakon guilt-free!

[Death Rat cover]

A few words on Mike Nelson’s Death Rat, as promised:

I’d hoped the book would be gut-wrenchingly funny, but assumed it would be just a solid, fun book. It definitely fell into the latter category. It reminded me a bit of Terry Pratchett’s early Discworld novels, actually; off-kilter and unique comedy combined with an intricate plot involving several very unusual heroes and antagonists.

The story features a “snowball” structure—the protagonist makes a bad decision, and things snowball into wilder and wilder situations. In this case, a middling historical author named Pontius Feeb decides to write a silly beach novel, but publishers are interested in writers that they can send around on book tours, and they certainly can’t push a nervous old man in front of an audience to read from an adventure novel. So Feeb gets a strapping young friend of his to pretend he wrote the book. And things snowball from there.

One of the things I really like about the book is its focus on the upper Midwest. It’s a part of our country that gets far too little exposure in the literary world, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse at the hardier peoples of Minnesota. These are sensible people—just as likely as any others to be prejudiced and stupid, but they have a simple certainty about themselves. If they indulge in trifling hobbies, it’s not because they’re desperately struggling for a sense of identity.

And it’s those sorts of touches that make for enjoyable reading. I enjoyed it because of what Nelson brings to the book as his own unique person. As it stands, Death Rat was a heck of a lot of fun, and the sort of book I know I’ll enjoy reading again.

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